Analysis - Ming Yang steps into Indian market

INDIA: Wind turbine manufacturers in India tend to fall into one of three categories: domestic OEMs such as Suzlon, foreign turbine companies such as Gamesa and GE, and lastly the Indian manufacturers that buy licenses from European designers.

GWP will use Ming Yang's 1.5MW turbine

Now, it appears there is a fourth way to build wind turbines for the Indian market. Last year, China's Ming Yang signed a $3 billion, 2.5GW deal with Indian independent power company Reliance Power to develop projects across ten Indian states. Central to the arrangement, the Reliance deal saw Ming Yang take a majority stake in manufacturer Global Wind Power (GWP).

In 2012, Ming Yang chairman Chuanwei Zhang said India presented strong growth potential. The deal was funded by the China Development Bank, he added.

Previously, GWP licensed designs from companies such as Fuhrländer and Norwind. Now, Ming Yang will export the components for its 1.5MW turbine to India, where it will be assembled by GWP. Last month, the first 1.5MW turbine was submitted to India's Centre for Wind Energy Technology for approval. A 150MW project in Maharashtra is to follow this year. The 2MW Ming Yang turbine will also be submitted at a later stage. 

There are no immediate plans to bring in Ming Yang's distintive Aerodyn-designed two-bladed SCD turbine.

Speaking about the link-up, GWP chief executive Hiren Shah said the aim was to install a further 300MW in 2014. The company is planning to reach the manufacturing plant's 600MW capacity in three years, he added. Perhaps more importantly, the deal allows Shah to ditch what he called the flawed strategy of buying designs off the shelf from Europe.

"We don't have a research and development department, so we go to pure play design companies in Europe and get the design, sign a loyalty and licensing agreement, and then you start manufacturing the turbine," Shah said.

"This is the path we chose, and we failed completely. We sourced three different technologies from Europe. One from Denmark, one from the Netherlands and one from Germany. In Germany it was Fuhrländer. That collapsed and got us into trouble. It was clear to us than this doesn't work because, firstly you don't know how long the designer will be around for. Secondly, you're always buying one version of the design, and when you go back you have to renegotiate a new licensing agreement, a new royalty. It doesn't end."

As an example of this issue, Shah highlighted GWP's purchase of the Furhländer 2.5MW turbine design. It is the biggest machine for sale in India and in, Shah's words "a terrific machine". However, there is a fatal flaw in the 300-tonne tower in that it designed for European conditions. "We told Fuhrländer that at least 60-70 tonnes need to be knocked off of this, but now that design doesn't exist. This is a situation where we had optimisation on design and now we can't sell the machine."

Ming Yang is not the first Chinese turbine manufacturer to sell turbines to India. In April 2011, Shanghai Electric signed an agreement with KSK Energy of India to export 250MW to India. The deal, for 125 2MW turbines, was confirmed by officials of Shanghai Electric. However they were unable to confirm any other details of the arrangement.

Currently, the Indian market is still dominated by the likes of Suzlon, ReGen Powertech and Gamesa. But below this it appears fluid, with a number of turbine designs being used.

If successful, deals such as the Ming Yang-Reliance agreement could have an impact on the Indian market as well as the turbine designers. In recent years, independent power producers (IPPs), including Reliance, have taken hold of around 80% country's wind power market. According to Windpower Intelligence, at the end of 2012 IPPs had a combined pipeline of 16GW, largely pushed by the government's generation-based tax incentive (GBI). GBI works in the same way as the US production tax incentive, rewarding for power produced.

A large proportion of this pipeline is for low wind class III areas. This means the majority of IPPs will look to suppliers specialising in low wind technology, something China's wind industry is pushing towards as it looks to build projects closer to the heavily populated areas on its east coast. Of course, the irony is that many of these designs have been created for the Chinese market but sourced from European companies.